Practice experiences of rural GP surgeons in British Columbia

The recruitment and retention of health care professionals is one of the most pressing challenges currently facing the Canadian health care system. In rural communities, the number of obstetricians and general surgeons is diminishing for a number of reasons, including difficulties in recruitment, an aging workforce, resistance to a demanding call schedule, and an increase in sub-specialization resulting in fewer ‘general’ surgeons. In some rural communities, maternity care is provided by general surgeons with enhanced obstetrical skills.

There are approximately 4,000 pregnant women in BC living in rural communities whose maternity care comes from these general practice (GP) surgeons. Despite the important role these practitioners play in sustaining rural maternity care in BC, to date, there has been no systematic research into their current experiences, and no official policy regarding guidelines for the practice, training, and maintenance of skills. Dr. Jude Kornelsen is investigating the role of these practitioners in rural health care in BC and their contribution to sustainable maternity care in these communities from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

Primarily through in-depth interviews, she will detail the experiences of GP surgeons in providing obstetrical care to rural communities including understanding their motivation, the nature of support received, and identifying any barriers to practice. She will describe the relationship between GP surgeons and specialists in their local community and in referral facilities, and determine how they receive ongoing training, mentoring and education. Ultimately, this research will provide a greater understanding of the culture of GP surgeons’ role in rural maternity service delivery in rural BC, and will help to inform policy guidelines regarding the practice, training, and maintenance of skills.